Tag Archives: scary

Search continues for Zombicon shooter in Florida

Police were searching Monday for a man who opened fire at a Florida weekend event celebrating zombie pop culture, killing one person, injuring six others and sending thousands of attendees scrambling for cover, according to a police spokesman.

“We’ve gotten numerous tips,” Fort Myers police chief, Dennis Eads told a press conference. “We have several leads that we are following right now … I’m very confident we’ll find out who did this.”

The suspect was described by police as a male in his late teens or early20s, dressed in a black T-shirt and a flat-billed black and red baseball cap, police said.

The suspect was seen firing a black semi-automatic handgun before fleeing the scene, police said.

Revelers were out late Saturday evening for the annual Zombicon community fundraising event when gun shots rang out as costumed festivity goers ran through the streets of downtown Fort Myers, creating confusion over who was hurt due to zombie props, fake blood and wounds.

Fort Myers Police Department identified the dead victim as Expavious Tyrell Taylor, 20, of Okeechobee, Florida. Taylor was described by friends in local media as an avid football player who was a student in the Miami area.

All six wounded persons suffered non-life threatening injuries, according to Lieutenant Victor Medico with Fort Myers police.

Review: Del Toro’s ‘Crimson Peak’ casts a gothic spell

The most pressing threat in Guillermo del Toro’s gothic horror “Crimson Peak” isn’t the ooze-filled cauldrons of dead souls in the basement of the old Victorian mansion, nor the plotting, black-clad sister (Jessica Chastain), who serves a bitterly poisonous tea.

It’s the ever-lurking possibility that, at any moment, the lush, ornate tapestry of Del Toro’s film might swallow its performers whole.

It would be a grand death. 

“Crimson Peak” is so lovingly wrapped in the stylish trappings of the genre that it’s one of the few movies you could say is worth it purely for the wallpaper.

It stars Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain — a fine trio of actors. But the film’s true above-the-title artists are more properly cinematographer Dan Laustsen, production designer Thomas Sanders and costume designer Kate Hawley, who under the lordly command of Del Toro, summon an atmosphere gaga with all things gothic.

“Crimson Peak” casts a spell that fails to hold, but it’s unquestionably the work of a man who loves — I mean, really loves — movies.

It opens with a flashback and a promise from Edith Cushing (Wasikowska) that “ghosts are real.” After the death of her mother, she (or at least a ghoulish ghostly of her) visits Edith with a frightful warning: “Beware of Crimson Peak.” It’s a message that curiously fails to impress. 

The setting is turn-of-the-century Buffalo, where Edith lives with her father Carter Cushing (an excellent Jim Beaver). She wants to be a novelist, but her manuscript (a ghost story) is condescendingly rejected, praised only for feminine “loops” of her penmanship. Advised to write a love story, she pleads that the ghosts are a metaphor for the past.

Such is the tenor of Del Toro’s fable, which he wrote with Matthew Robins. You wouldn’t mistake it for Henry James or even for Hitchcock. The exquisite set design is more heightened than the emotions; the grotesques are too beautiful to be too deep.

From England, Thomas Sharpe (the splendid Tom Hiddleston) comes to town with his mysterious sister Lucille (Chastain), in search of a grant for a contraption of his invention to mine the red clay beneath their home. Cushing, an established business man, quickly rejects Thomas, but Edith doesn’t.

The Sharpes have clearly duplicitous motives, but Edith swoons for Thomas. Just as they’re departing Buffalo, Edith’s father is killed. The scene is a beauty: in the steam and golden light of a morning bathhouse, an unseen assailant sneaks up to Carter and crushes his skull over a sink, leaving blood and water flowing from the cracked porcelain.

Edith and Thomas wed and the trio returns to the remote Sharpe family manor in England, Allerdale Hall, where the movie moves into its more sedate, predictable house-of-horrors second half. A hole in the roof pours light and autumn leaves down the center, red clay bubbles beneath the floor boards, ghosts lurk in the closets, the bath runs blood red and (horror of horrors) the kitchen could use granite counter tops. It’s a fixer upper.

The movie settles into a “Notorious”-like plot where Edith is slowly poisoned while unearthing the Sharpe family secrets.

The rich atmosphere of “Crimson Peak” never wanes, but the story does. Having summoned the gothic ghosts, Del Toro never fully unleashes them. The director’s dark fantasy masterpiece remains “Pan’s Labyrinth,” but his affection for gothic romance is infectious; hopefully he has a Dickens adaptation in him.

As even his last film, the kaiju monster movie “Pacific Rim,” proved, there may be no better conjurer of color in movies right now. His dreams, and nightmares, are in technicolor. 

Trump, El Chapo among most popular Halloween costumes in Mexico

Two of the hottest Halloween costumes in Mexico this year are the country’s most wanted man — and arguably its most hated.

Striped prison jumpers and detailed latex masks representing the mustachioed, twice-escaped drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman are selling like hotcakes ahead of the late October holiday, according to Diego Esponda, CEO of costume maker Caretas REV.

Caretas, which operates a small factory in the city of Cuernavaca, has produced more than 2,600 “El Chapo” masks this month, with many of them being exported to the United States and Canada.

Besides brutal killings and the shipment of huge quantities of narcotics to the United States by his organization, the leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel is notorious for breaking out of a maximum-security Mexican prison not once but twice. The most recent was in July when he fled from his prison cell through a sophisticated mile-long (1½-kilometer) tunnel.

Designer Hector Bustos said the idea of producing a costume based on the drug lord began as a dark joke among colleagues but then they thought: Why not?

Its popularity reflects the gallows-humor japes that many Mexicans told following “El Chapo’s” second escape.

“It’s kind of funny, isn’t it: We captured him twice and he escapes twice, right?” Esponda said with a chuckle. “So, you know, we aren’t glorifying anybody. On the contrary, I think this is a wake-up call to the government, which captures him and then he escapes.”

Another popular getup this year is Donald Trump, the Republican presidential candidate, real estate mogul and reality TV star who angered many south of the border this year when he denigrated Mexican immigrants as criminals, drug traffickers and “rapists.”

The unflattering mask captures Trump with mouth agape and caricatures his signature blond hairdo.

“The Donald Trump one is also selling very well in the United States,” Esponda said. “I mean, he is the most hated person right now in Mexico.”

Halloween has traditionally played second-fiddle in Mexico to the Day of the Dead holiday, which takes place Nov. 1. But with each passing year more and more Mexican kids are also dressing up in costumes and going trick-or-treating the previous night.

‘Ex-Machina,’ ‘It Follows’ breathe life into stale genres

Alex Garland has learned a few things in his years as a science-fiction screenwriter: namely, that money doesn’t always help.

Garland is now making his directorial debut with the acclaimed science fiction film “Ex-Machina,” after earlier scripting the influential zombie thriller “28 Days Later” and seeing his first book, “The Beach,” turned into the Leonardo DiCaprio adventure. The 2007 Danny Boyle-directed space thriller “Sunshine,” which Garland wrote, particularly drove home the lesson.

“The thing I really felt about ‘Sunshine’ almost while we were making it, is that we were spending too much money,” says Garland. “When you’re spending that much money, either consciously or unconsciously, you start to think about recouping. You start to think about the business of film and trying to make it entertaining or trying to adrenalize it at moments when it’s the wrong thing to do.”

Garland’s “Ex-Machina,” which opens in theaters April 10, was made for $15 million, not the $50 million it took to make “Sunshine,” a philosophical journey to the sun that eventually dissolved into more of a monster movie. “Ex-Machina,” however, holds its trance throughout the tale of a young computer programmer (Domhnall Gleeson) who flies to the remote lair of a tech billionaire (Oscar Isaac), and is introduced to a very realistic artificial intelligence (Alicia Vikander).

“The one thing I do know is that I really, really want creative freedom — not just for me but the people I’m working with,” says the British writer-director. “You need to be Christopher Nolan to have creative freedom at that level. That’s what, like, two or three people in the world.”

Instead of fighting those odds, a new generation of filmmakers is breathing fresh life into the often over-commercialized genres of sci-fi and horror. A regular diet of big-budget releases have helped stagnate genre thrills by over-relying on visual-effects spectacle (“Jupiter Ascending,” “After Earth”), while mainstream horror has been overrun by gimmicky shlock (the “Paranormal Activity” series) and familiar retreads (“I, Frankenstein”).

But many of the most exciting horror and sci-fi films in recent years — “Under the Skin,” “The Babadook,” “Her,” “Upstream Color,” the “Black Mirror” miniseries — have come from independent filmmakers working with small or even skimpy budgets, who prize creative control in genres where final cut is scarce.

Janet Pierson, head of film at South By Southwest, where “Ex-Machina” premiered, has regularly programmed inventive genre fare. While she’s witnessed steadily intrepid sci-fi and horror for years, she sees a larger shift.

“What I’ve noticed is that the young people that come in here, particularly more and more of the women, their first love is genre films — which is a real change, which is something that didn’t exist before,” said Pierson. “I come from the more traditional art-house generation.” 

David Robert Mitchell, writer-director of the indie horror sensation “It Follows,” is a kind of combination genre-art house filmmaker. His first movie, “The Myth of the American Sleepover,” was his version of a teen drama that portrayed the quieter moments of adolescence, rather than the melodramatic extremes usually depicted in the genre.

“It Follows” is his stab at horror. The DVDs he pulled off his shelf in preparation make a respectable horror syllabus: “Nosferatu” (the original and the Werner Herzog version), Romero, Cronenberg, Polanski, the classic Universal monster movies, the Hammer classics, “The Shining” and many more.

“There’s a bunch of us that grew up watching what are now seen as classic horror films,” says Mitchell, a Michigan native. “That’s probably affected a lot of us to, if not update them, be inspired by them.”

Mitchell’s deep appreciation of the genre is self-evident in “It Follows,” an atmospheric suburban teenager thriller with a synthesizer score evocative of John Carpenter. “It Follows” has crossed over from art house to mainstream: it expanded last weekend to some 1,200 theaters, despite earlier plans for video-on-demand. It pulled in $4 million at the box office, about twice its budget. 

While he acknowledges “more money would definitely be helpful” and that he may later be interested in directing bigger studio films, “my intention is to kind of take my time with that,” says Mitchell. “And that’s by choice.”

“Ex-Machina” and “It Follows” both create suspense by relying on acting and atmosphere. “It Follows,” in which an unseen, unknown entity is passed like a sexually transmitted disease, works like “Jaws” or “The Evil Dead”: What we imagine is more fearful than anything a movie can physically represent. “Ex-Machina” has the distilled feel of a chamber piece: It’s all questions and mysteries to unravel, none of the fat of special effects set-pieces.

“What that stuff does is it takes the heat off characterization and themes and story,” says Garland. “What a chamber piece does is it leaves you nowhere to hide.”

‘Sharknado 2’ a hilarious must-see treat

Don’t worry about me. The Sharknado Evacuation map supplied by Syfy network places me, as a resident of Lower Manhattan, smack in the zone most in peril this sharknado season. But I’ll be ready.

You might as well batten down the hatches, too. “Sharknado 2: The Second One” (which, if you hadn’t guessed, is an encore follow-up sequel to last summer’s campy classic) premieres Wednesday (9 p.m. EDT).

The original “Sharknado” depicted a weather aberration on the Southern California coast that caused bloodthirsty sharks to rain on hapless Angelenos. But hunky beach-bar owner Fin Shepard (get it: fin shepherd?!) saved the day with a makeshift shark explosion.

Now he’s back. Again played by “Beverly Hills, 90210” alum Ian Ziering, Fin, in the aftermath of his sharknado trauma, is heading to New York City for a quiet visit along with his beloved ex, April (the returning Tara Reid). It won’t surprise you to learn that an even bigger, badder sharknado siege awaits him.

That’s the bad news. The good news: “Sharknado 2” is a hilarious must-see treat.

The original film erupted as a social-media and pop-culture phenomenon, mostly celebrated for its unwitting awfulness. It was a throwback to drive-in movies of 50 years ago that you would have ignored while you and your date put your attention elsewhere. A would-be blend of “Jaws” and “Baywatch,” it was funny, but never seemed to be in on the joke.

Against all odds, “Sharknado 2” has wised up. Though it and its performers teem with conviction — no winking at the audience here _ the film is unabashedly awash with fun. And unlike laid-back Cali, New York — always spoiling for a fight — is the perfect arena for dramatic strife, even from killer sharks cascading from the sky.

In fact, “Sharknado 2” serves as a paean to the Big Apple. Veteran comedian Robert Klein (playing the mayor of New York in one of the film’s numerous celebrity cameos) delivers a rousing call-to-arms for all New Yorkers: “When something bites us, we bite back!” Hizzoner said a mouthful!

Adding to the merriment are the many New York locations. Director Anthony C. Ferrante (back again for the sequel, as is screenwriter Thunder Levin) proves himself as a guerrilla filmmaker, capturing the city up-close-and-personal yet with a remarkably sleek touch. It’s a fine-looking film, despite a budget (Ferrante hints) somewhere between $1 million and $2 million and a shooting schedule (he swears) of just 18 days.

“I had only been to New York a few times,” Ferrante, who grew up in Northern California, said recently, “and getting to come here and shoot at all these landmarks, I was like a kid in a candy store. When they told me, ‘You only get Times Square for two hours, and with only a crew of eight,’ I said, ‘OK, let’s do it!’ We shot the whole ferry scene in 15 minutes on the ride back from Liberty Island.

“We needed to do the subway scene, and got a meeting with the MTA. They didn’t know what a sharknado is, but we made our case. They said, ‘We’re gonna give you the platform at Citi Field and a functioning (subway) car for three hours.’ And the Mets gave us a 12-hour day at Citi Field. I’m from L.A., but I want the Mets to win the World Series this year. They did me a solid!”

The subway and Citi Field sequences are riotous, and, among the many star turns, “Today” personalities Matt Lauer and Al Roker do some of the best work of their lives providing poker-faced coverage of the raging disaster.

But the film will sink its teeth into you from its first moments as you join Fin and April on their terrifying airline flight. Fasten your seatbelt for a wicked homage. This “Sharknado” is the very definition of scared silly.

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Exorcism of 1949 continues to fascinate St. Louis

Saint Louis University junior Zach Grummer-Strawn has never seen “The Exorcist,” the 1973 horror film considered one of the finest examples of unadulterated cinematic terror. He’s only vaguely familiar with the monthlong 1949 demon-purging ritual at his school on which the film and William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel were based.

But just in time for Halloween, Jesuit scholars have joined a whole new generation of horror buffs in St. Louis to recount the supernatural incident. The university hosted a panel discussion this week on the exorcism, which involved the treatment of an unidentified suburban Washington, D.C., boy. About 500 people crammed into Pius XII Library, with some spilling into the library aisles, leaning against pillars or sitting on desks.

“I’d like to believe it’s the real thing,” said Grummer-Strawn, a theology and sociology student from Atlanta. “But you just can’t know. That’s part of why we’re here. It’s the pursuit of truth. And it’s such a great story.”

The university scholars and guest speaker Thomas Allen, author of a 1993 account of the events at the school’s former Alexian Brothers Hospital, emphasized that definitive proof that the boy known only as “Robbie” was possessed by malevolent spirits is unattainable. Maybe he instead suffered from mental illness or sexual abuse – or fabricated the entire experience.

Like most of religion’s basic tenets, it ultimately comes down to faith.

“If the devil can convince us he does not exist, then half the battle is won,” said the Rev. Paul Stark, vice president for mission and ministry at the 195-year-old Catholic school. He opened the discussion with a prayer from the church’s exorcism handbook, imploring God to “fill your servants with courage to fight that reprobate dragon.”

Some of the non-students in the audience spoke of personal connections to an episode that has enthralled generations of St. Louis residents.

One man described living near the suburban St. Louis home where the 13-year-old boy arrived in the winter of 1949 (his Lutheran mother was a St. Louis native who married a Catholic). Another said she was a distant cousin of Father William Bowdern, who led the exorcism ritual after consulting with the archbishop of St. Louis but remained publicly silent about his experiences – though he did tell Allen it was “the real thing.”

Bowdern died in 1983.

Bowdern was assisted by the Rev. Walter Halloran, who unlike his colleague spoke openly with Allen and expressed his skepticism about potential paranormal events before his death a decade ago.

“He talked more about the boy, and how much he suffered, and less about the rite,” Allen said. “Here was a scared, confused boy caught up in something he didn’t understand.

“He told me, ‘I simply don’t know,’ and that is where I leave it,” the author added. “I just don’t know.”

Allen zealously protects the anonymity of “Robbie,” despite others’ efforts to track him down to this day.

Gary Mackey, a 59-year-old accountant who left work early to attend the campus event, said he also is unsure whether “The Exorcist” was a work of fiction or instead a riveting real-life account of barely comprehensible forces.

He does know this: He cannot forget the movie that he saw with a buddy four decades ago. They drove 100 miles (160 kilometers) from their home in Louisville, Kentucky, to the nearest theater showing it across the state line in Cincinnati.

“I saw the movie when I was 19 years old and it scared me to death,” Mackey said. “I think it’s the scariest movie ever made.”

Boo! Fox’s anti-LGBT bias frightens viewers

Blue light streamed across the living room, casting eerie shadows.

The light flickered and jumped.

A figure shifted on the couch, reached for the remote. 

And then an explosion of noise came from the TV. “Shut up! Shut up!”

Fox News Channel star Bill O’Reilly was red-faced furious, again, and moving in for the strike.

Fox News, launched in 1996 to compete with CNN, reaches more than 90 million homes and, according to its press releases, dominates the cable news lineup, especially in prime time. At the top of the heap is O’Reilly, with the most-watched program on cable news — “The O’Reilly Factor.”

When critics challenge Fox’s claim that the network presents “fair and balanced” news, network executives sometimes bristle and O’Reilly shouts, “Shut up!”

But Media Matters says there is far more than political bias on the Fox News Channel: There are fabricated stories and rumors reported as fact, as well as consistent manipulation of photographs and video that distorts reports. Wisconsin residents might recall the video accompanying a Fox News broadcast reporting on the pro-union protests in Madison in February 2011. The snarling protesters were dressed in T-shirts and shirts, shaking their fists menacingly as they stood against a background of palm trees. Meanwhile, Madison lay buried in snow with temperatures hovering  in the teens.

Media Matters also noted vitriol and venom in Fox commentary when the issues involve race, immigration, health care, women’s rights, LGBT equality and also the president.

LGBT ISSUES

As for Fox’s coverage of LGBT issues, media watchdog Carlos Maza said the network is “the primary promoter of LGBT disinformation.”

Maza is a researcher with Equality Matters, an initiative launched by Media Matters, the web-based nonprofit founded in 2004 to monitor for “news or commentary that is not accurate, reliable or credible and that forwards the conservative agenda.”

EM keeps tabs on right-wing groups such as the Family Research Council and Liberty Counsel and watches over the media for LGBT misinformation. Monitors watch the news from the early a.m. to the early a.m. to flag problematic coverage. “We have eyes on Fox basically all day long,” Maza said.

And a lot of flags go up.

At the Oct. 11–13 Values Voter Summit hosted in D.C. by the Family Research Council, a right-wing hate group, Fox personalities at the podium included Allen West, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, Cal Thomas and Sandy Rios, who said ex-gays are everywhere but closeted because they are “maligned.” Homosexuality, she added, puts the lives of young men at risk and it is a “dangerous time to be a Christian conservative” because in the country today “good is called evil and evil is called good.”

Overall, with polls showing greater acceptance for gay people and majority support for marriage equality, Maza said he’s noticed shifts in how Fox’s broadcasts address LGBT issues.

On marriage, Fox often frames the issue as an attack on religious freedom, with Christians “as the victims of intolerance and the gay activists who have become the bullies. Those stories, they get a lot of traction.”

A recent example is how Fox covered the conflict over amending a non-discrimination ordinance in San Antonio, Texas, to include gender identity and sexual orientation.

“Fox ran segment after segment describing it as a war against Christians,” Maza said.

The researcher also has tracked an uptick on Fox in coverage that demonizes and ridicules transgender people. “On Fox, it’s still very much OK to make rape jokes about transgender people,” he said.

Last January, in a segment on “The O’Reilly Factor,” Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly joked about a transgender prison inmate. 

“Couldn’t they do a better job for a million bucks than this guy? Look, there he is. For a million you figure he might look like Annette Funicello or somebody. I don’t know?” O’Reilly said.

Kelly said, “He’s in a male prison.”

O’Reilly added, “All right, but I don’t think he’s in any danger.”

That month, Oregon LGBT civil rights activists protested the use of a still of Robin Williams as “Mrs. Doubtfire” to illustrate a story about regulations requiring that insurers in California and Oregon provide equal coverage to transgender customers.

In late August, Fox personalities complained about using feminine pronouns for Pvt. Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier convicted of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks. They mocked Manning’s appearance.

‘BATHROOM BILL’

That month, Fox characterized as a “bathroom bill” landmark legislation signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown that guarantees transgender public school students access to facilities and programs that correspond to their gender identity.

On “The O’Reilly Factor,” Greg Gutfield said if he was a devious teenager he’d “tell girls that I’m a girl trapped in a boy’s body, just so I could sneak into the girl’s bathroom. In fact, I do that now at Fox News. Gretchen Carlson threw me out of the bathroom just last week.”

Carlson, commenting on the legislation, said, “Can you imagine now, the boys want to go into the girls bathroom and the girls want to go into the boys bathroom, and they can just say, ‘Oh, well, I was transgender for the moment.’ I just can’t get my head around this.”

O’Reilly called the legislation “the biggest con in the world.”

Hannity said government was forsaking the 99 percent to accommodate the .00001 percent.”

“It’s like red meat for their viewers,” Maza said. “They are very comfortable turning those kinds of stories into horror stories.”

For the creepiest commentary on transgender issues, Fox relies on Dr. Keith Ablow, who has said a transgender person on “Dancing with the Stars” could kindle “gender dysphoria” in others and that Chaz Bono suffers from a “psychotic delusion” because “there is nothing substantially different from a woman believing she is a man than there is about a woman believing she is a CIA agent being followed by the KGB” when she is really a salesperson at J.Crew.

Maza said, “Very flawed and medically inaccurate” information is pervasive on Fox.

About 41 percent of American voters trust the information they get on the channe and 46 percent do not, according to a survey by the liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling firm. PPP president Dean Debnam said the survey also found that Democrats trust most TV news sources other than Fox, while Republicans don’t trust anything except Fox.

Maza said, “I think that for some Fox News employees, they know there is a segment of the audience that this really resonates with. So they really get on board with the transphobic stuff and that is good for their national profile.”

But there are those at Fox, Ablow for example, who seem to Maza to “harbor real resentment or animosity” toward LGBT people.

The consequences of that animosity?

A Pew Research Center report released on Oct. 11 found that dedicated cable viewers average 72 minutes of home viewing per day. CNN reaches slightly more adult viewers than Fox, but the study found Fox narrowly has the largest singularly dedicated audience — 24 percent of U.S. adults watch only Fox News.

That’s a lot of people getting information from a source that Masen Davis, who heads up the Transgender Law Center, has described as “dangerously uninformed.”

At the National Center for Transgender Equality, Mara Keisling has said Fox’s coverage contributes to violence and harassment.

Maza and others said Fox’s disinformation and animosity also can embolden campaigns against equality and “really impact the same-sex couple raising a family in San Antonio or the transgender student in California.”